Arrests in killing of Iranian
ANKARA, Nov 28, (Agencies): Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s criticism of Turkey’s offensive in Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, saying the French leader sponsors terrorism.
“He is already the sponsor of the terrorist organisation and constantly hosts them at the Elysee. If he says his ally is the terrorist organization … there is really nothing more to say,” Cavusoglu said. “Right now, there is a void in Europe, (Macron) is trying to be its leader, but leadership comes naturally,” he told reporters in parliament.
Last month, Macron met Jihane Ahmed, the spokeswoman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is a big part, to express France’s solidarity with them in their fight against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist group and has been infuriated by the supports its allies have given the group.
The Turkish assault, launched on Oct 9, was condemned by Ankara’s NATO allies, including France. Earlier on Thursday, Macron said that Turkey could not expect solidarity from NATO allies when it launched its offensive in northeast Syria as a “fait accompli”. Ties between Turkey and France have been strained in recent years, but Macron and Cavusoglu’s comments on Thursday highlight growing tensions ahead of NATO’s 70th anniversary summit in London next week.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkey was refusing to back a NATO defence plan for the Baltics and Poland until it got more political support for its fight against the YPG. On Wednesday, a Turkish source said the impasse stemmed from the United States’ move to withdraw its support for a separate Turkey defence plan.
Turkish police said on Thursday they had detained five people in relation to the killing in Istanbul of an Iranian citizen who Turkish media said was an opponent of Iran’s government. Masoud Molavi died after he was shot at from a car in Istanbul’s central district of Sisli on Nov 14. Turkish broadcaster Haberturk said Molavi was a former Iranian intelligence employee who later became an opponent of Tehran.
Police said five people, including the person who is believed to have carried out the shooting, were detained on Wednesday. The other four suspects allegedly helped the gunman obtain the weapon he used and helped him hide. A mortar attack targeting a Turkish military post near the border with Syria has killed two soldiers, Turkey’s defense ministry said Thursday.
The ministry said Turkish artillery units immediately returned fire across the border into northeastern Syria after the attack, which took place Wednesday evening near the Turkish town of Akcakale. It added that “operations” in the area were continuing. However, an opposition group that monitors the war in Syria said the first shots were fired by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkish shelling prompted a retaliatory attack from Syrian Kurdish fighters. It did not say if there were any casualties in Syria. The differing accounts of the fighting could not immediately be verified. Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters seized areas in northeastern Syria in a military offensive launched nearly two months ago.
That offensive took control of the town of Tal Abyad, which sits just across the border from Akcakale. The Turkish incursion aimed to push Syrian Kurdish fighters away from the border. A fragile truce sponsored by Turkey and Russia had halted the fighting but has been sporadically violated. Turkey will repatriate 11 French Islamic State detainees early in December, state media quoted Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as saying on Thursday, as Ankara pressed on with a repatriation programme that had strained ties with some of its allies.
Turkey begun the process of repatriating the Islamic State detainees earlier this month, sending several suspects to their home countries despite calls from some European nations that the suspected jihadists should be tried where they committed crimes. Turkey’s foreign minister has called on NATO to support Ankara’s security concerns, accusing allies of backing Baltic countries’ security concerns but dismissing threats to Turkey from Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Cavusoglu made the comments Thursday. He confirmed media reports that said Turkey was blocking a NATO defense proposal for the Baltic nations and Poland until the alliance supports Turkey’s concerns relating to the Kurdish fighters, which Ankara considers to be terrorists.
Cavusoglu said: “We are not against NATO’s retaliation plans for the Baltic nations but (NATO) should also want for Turkey what it wants for the Baltics.” He said the NATO chief was working to overcome the dispute. A plan to defend the Baltic nations in case of a Russian attack needs the backing of all member states.